Hal McRae thought the 1976 batting title was stolen from him in a racist plot

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From the Department of I Had No Idea This Ever Happened comes the racial controversy over the 1976 A.L. batting title.  The part I knew about: the race came down to the last day between teammates George Brett and Hal McRae. In their last at bats, Brett hit an inside the park home run and McRae grounded out: title Brett.

The part I had no idea about: McRae believed there to be a racist conspiracy in play to throw the title to Brett:

After the game, McRae claimed that the Twins conspired to give Brett the title. Racism, McRae said, was the motivation . . . McRae’s claim centered on the argument that [Twins’ outfielder Steve] Brye was playing too deep
(at Mauch’s instruction) and that Brye likely hesitated on Brett’s
flyball, letting it fall . . . Brett also is quoted as saying, “I think maybe the Twins made me a
present of the batting championship, and if they did, I feel just as
bad about it as Hal does”.

All that came from a 1976 copy of the Sporting News unearthed by the Royals Review blog.  The kicker: it was just in some ordinary story on page 31, unaccompanied by any commentary or anything.  And nothing else ever really came of it.

Royals Review asks the question I had the moment I started reading it: can you imagine if that happened today.  The commentary explosion would definitely be something to behold. Most of it would probably be pretty predictable, of course.

I think it would be worth it alone just to see what the K.C. Star’s Jason Whitlock would do. I can’t decide if he would go with the conspiracy theory angle (his Jeff George articles are classics of the genre), the straight up racism story, or if he would go with what is perhaps his greatest strength and take the really, really contrary angle and, I dunno, accuse McRae of hatching his own conspiracy to create the batting title conspiracy and then use the rest of the column to slam ESPN and the nation’s culture.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).